Perseverance in Prayer

Persevere.... What so special about it? Let me share this beautiful story of perseverance in prayer that i found... True story by David Allen White, Ph.D. I know this story is quite long but just spend your time to read it through. You will not regret it. Worth reading i may say. So, Happy Reading!!!

A story of 11th hour conversion

On the Vigil of All Saints Day, on the brink of my 58th year to eternity, I became an orphan. Old friends had told me of the odd feeling one experiences when both parents have died, that the world seems a strange and different place. With the death of my dear mother on October 31st, following soon after the death of my good father, I learned the truth of the statement. Those by whom I came into this world have now left this world. I also, however, feel great joy, and it is that great joy that I wish to share with you, along with a very important lesson I have learned.

My parents were both simple folk, coming from hard-working families in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I learned late in life that both of my grandfathers, paternal and maternal, were baptized Catholics. Both apostatized when they married, my Irish grandfather James White marrying my Norwegian grandmother Bertha Johnson in a Lutheran ceremony and my German grandfather Matthew Kurtz marrying my French grandmother in a Congregational church. When my father Medwin married my mother Lois, he left the Lutheran church for the Congregational church. When I was born, three of my four grandparents were dead and the family was so far removed from its Catholic roots that I never even suspected that the Catholic Church hovered in the family's past.

My father worked in a small meat market near the house where he had been born until he went off to serve in World War II, serving as a radio man aboard the B-17 bombers that flew the first missions over Berlin. My mother worked as a secretary at a local tire factory, helping to support her mother as her two brothers were also away serving in the War. None of them ever had a sense that that war was, as Our Lady made clear at Fatima, a punishment for the sins of the world. There was no voice that they could hear that would convey that stern and heavy truth.

When father returned after the war, he returned to the corner meat market and became a master butcher. For the next quarter century everyone in town knew where to find the best cuts of meat and the market became a local fixture, a corner grocery and a social gathering place. He married my mother on May 26, 1946, and a little over two years later I was born. I was baptized and raised in the same Congregational church where my parents had been married. The church became a focal point of family activity -- church suppers, bake sales, Sunday school, choir rehearsals and the Sunday services consisting of very long sermons and very beautiful hymns.

I began to know something was odd early in high school when I was "confirmed". I had attended "confirmation" classes but remember nothing of what we covered. In fact, for all the years of church school instruction, the one memory that remains with me is the countless passages of scripture that we were made to memorize, along with a few basic prayers. That work was a great good, the rest is long since forgotten. When it came time to be "confirmed", those of us in the class sat in the front pew of the church on Sunday morning and in the middle of the long sermon were told by the pastor to stand. He then announced, "Now you are confirmed," and then we were told to sit down. I remember asking myself at the time, "What was that?" It seemed to be nonsense.

When I went off to college, I did what most protestant young people do upon leaving home (and sadly most Catholic young people now as well since the advent of the new Roman Protestant Church) -- I walked away. I would attend with my parents when I was home, but it was out of loyalty to them. I had no connection with the church.

At the university I learned the one essential lesson taught in every major institution of higher learning -- there is no God. I learned I was "free" and could live my life as I chose to live it. So I discovered sin, a concept I had never before been taught, and thought I had achieved independence. My life spiraled downward until years later I awakened one morning and said, "I don't like myself anymore." I felt such despair that I forced myself to my knees and stumbled through the "Our Father" that I had learned many years before, thanks to those Sunday school teachers who had taught me when I was a child. Fortunately, when I implored God's assistance, He came to my rescue, and through a series of miraculous events and personal decisions, I came into the Catholic Church, returning to that Mystical Body of Christ that my grandfathers had left decades earlier (I later learned that I had some devout great-aunts on both sides of the family who prayed fervently for the family's return to the true faith -- I hope to meet and thank those good ladies one day).

My poor parents were shocked. They could put up with my atheism as they assumed that was only a stage I was going through, but they could not grasp anyone converting to the Catholic Church. They were filled with all the usual protestant prejudices against the Catholic Church, a list of silliness too long and too well known to repeat here. We maintained a truce on the subject that lasted for some years and my mother even remarked at one point, "Well, at least he goes to Church."

One night during a visit, however, tempers flared. I had been making pointed and hard comments about the secularism around us everywhere and with contemptible smugness pointed out to my parents that at least my Church spoke out against abortion while their liberal protestant denomination fully supported it. (Flannery O'Connor stated once that smugness is the great temptation for Catholics and how right she turned out to be!) My parents did not support abortion but my tone of voice and smug condescension were too much and my father exploded. He and mother were very happy in their church and I could do what I wanted, but they had had enough of my constant criticism of how they worshiped. The truce became an uneasy one and we thenceforward tiptoed around the subject. From the first day of my conversion, I had prayed that they might convert as well and I continued to pray day after day, year after year, but I never dreamed that such an unlikely event could ever occur in reality. My smugness even reached as high as God Himself -- I thought I knew better than the Author of Souls what was possible for my poor protestant parents.

They remained devoted to their church and worked endlessly for it -- mother acting as church secretary and even assisting the pastor in parish service duties, visiting the sick, arranging weddings and funerals, and father helped to put up the Christmas decorations and often ushered, and both of them worked endlessly in the church kitchen, cooking, serving, washing. I remember one day shortly before Thanksgiving when they were both in their 70s. I had tried all day to reach them by phone and when I finally made contact learned that they had prepared and served a big turkey dinner for dozens of the "elderly" in the parish. I told them with some annoyance they should have been seated and been served as well, but they laughed it off. They worked and worked until the sorrows of age finally came upon them.

I had been home visiting them for their 57th wedding anniversary. When I said goodbye, my mother collapsed in my arms, sobbing. I was stunned as she knew I would be back again in two months, and though she often shed a few tears when I departed, on this occasion she unleashed a torrent. She must have known what no one else in the family could have known at the time. In the next months, her mind would fog, then darken, then shut down. She headed down the path of senile dementia and then fell into full blown Alzheimer's disease. As she became unhinged, my father suffered greatly. She would get up three or four times a night to get "ready for work" or to cook a dinner "for the people who were coming"; she would put his clothes into the oven thinking it was the washing machine; she would wander out the front door to go visit her own mother who had been dead for 35 years. Father could not understand what had happened to the wife he loved; he had to have locks put on the inside of the door to keep her in the house; he had to have the telephones hidden as she would call random numbers day and night, thinking she was calling friends. Neither of them slept for days at a time. Father despaired, and when he stated that he wished he could just drive both of them into the river, I flew home. I was awake all night as I witnessed the nightmare father had been living through, constant vigilance, unexpected actions, total exhaustion. At one point in the night, I heard a disturbance in their bedroom and found them lying in their bed, both wearing adult diapers and both crying. The great love they had shown for me when I was young and helpless had to be repaid by me now that they were old and helpless. I arranged for mother to go into a home that specialized in this disease. And I prayed endlessly, and God forgive me, often without hope.

The night before I took her to the care facility, I asked them if I had been a good son and they said yes. I then asked them if they would say a prayer with me and they agreed. I said the words and they repeated them after me, "Oh my Jesus" "Oh my Jesus" "forgive us our sins" "forgive us our sins" "Save us from the fires us hell" "save us from the fires of hell" " Lead all souls to heaven" "Lead all souls to heaven" "especially those most in need.” "especially those most in need” Mother's mind seemed clear as she spoke the words. The next morning I took her away from the home she loved. She never returned.

Father was alone in the house now. He visited mother every day and she would occasionally have a lucid moment. He would bring her apples or small candies and try to remind her of the early days of their marriage, walking at night to see the local baseball team play, going on family picnics, spending summer days at a cottage on a northern lake. Sometimes she would smile or laugh in recognition, but the memories were leaving her one by one.

When in the area I would attend the indult Tridentine Mass celebrated by a devout older priest in the area. Father Norbert Wilger though in his early 80s still runs St Mary's Parish as well as the parish school in Altoona, Wisconsin. He worked hard to receive permission to celebrate the indult Mass and has been now been doing so for years. He also has a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. He very kindly suggested that given my mother's perilous condition, she should be conditionally re-baptized and given conditional last rites. My father agreed to this and the good priest saw to it. Mother was conscious at the time and did not offer any resistance or display any reluctance. When the good priest had finished, I took her hand and made the sign of the cross with her, as she herself was now in a wheel chair and could no longer move her limbs. She willingly allowed me to make the mark of faith on her bent and dwindling body. I wept with hope and began to suspect that my trust in God had been weak indeed.

My brother and I moved father into a small apartment in a complex for the elderly. He had a solid meal every day and people around to watch over him, but he complained of being profoundly lonely. He was now at the age of 84 living alone for the first time in his life. The highlight of his day remained the visit to mother, even though she could no longer speak and did no longer recognize him. Still, he visited her faithfully. He also continued to recite faithfully the Fatima prayer every night before going to bed, for himself and for my mother. And I offered up their sufferings and sorrows on their behalf and asked God to have mercy on them and allow them good deaths.

Father Wilger regularly visited my father. He would sit and talk with him, often about the war, or about old times in the city. He would say a prayer with him, but mainly, the good priest performed great acts of Christian charity by simply remembering and visiting at a time when my poor old father felt alone and abandoned. My father would often say, "Who would have ever thought it would end like this?" The Four Last Things have no place in the protestant worldview and when Death and Judgment and Heaven and Hell loom on the horizon, they arrive as unexpected and terrifying intruders.

Last year on the Feast of St. John, shortly after Christmas, I was staying with father when he asked me if I thought Father Wilger would give him "that blessing" which mother had received. I responded, "Well, Dad, you still have your wits about you. You could get a lot more. Would you like to see Father Wilger?" When he agreed, I raced to the phone and learned with delight that the priest was free right then. I picked him up at the parish church, brought him to my father and went to the little sunroom in the building to wait, praying the rosary with tears of gratitude and, God forgive me, disbelief. My father at the age of 85 was received into the Roman Catholic Church, was conditionally re-baptized and made his first confession. On the next morning, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Father Wilger brought my father his first Holy Communion.

Father Wilger continued to bring Communion regularly. In early March, just after Ash Wednesday, he brought my father communion. My father received it reverently and they prayed together. The next day, an old friend came to visit father and they chatted for some time. He then settled into his favorite armchair, drank a beer and fell asleep, never to awaken again in time. He made a good death. He was a good man and a great father.

Mother never really knew that father had died. We told her and she said with tears, "Poor dad," but "dad" had long ago become confused with her own father, dead for 70 years. And then that bit of news passed away with all the other memories. When I would visit her, I would bless her with holy water and with a fragment of the True Cross, the finest gift I have ever been given. I received it from a devout nun with a special devotion to Fatima who instructed me to bless both my parents with it and I had obediently followed her instructions for the past two years. My prayers for my mother continued.

In October of this year, I lectured in Tuy Spain and Fatima for good Father Gruner. To visit those two historic sites was a great honor. After one conference I saw some blessed brown scapulars on the table and a voice in my head told me to take one and get it onto my mother. When that voice speaks, I listen. Upon my return, I sent it to my brother who lives outside of Minneapolis. He took it to the nursing home in late October and my mother at the age of 82 was clothed in the brown scapular. On the Vigil of All Saints Day, she passed quietly in her sleep. I have great hope that God will be merciful to her. She was a kind, generous, loving woman and a great mother.

Many of you reading these words prayed for my parents over many years, for I would often publicly request your assistance. There is no way in which I can thank you. Perhaps this small chronicle of prayers being answered will be thanks enough. In this season of hope, with the joy of the Savior's birth coming upon us again, we should remember those devout chosen ones who prayed for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. Do remember, all of you praying to God for events that seem so far away and so unlikely, God hears those prayers, just as He heard the prayers over those centuries and responded on a cold night in an obscure stable in a small town in Bethlehem. My prayers over 27 years were answered by events in a small apartment and a room in a nursing home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, obscure spaces and small gestures of which the world took no note, little suspecting again their eternal significance or that God, through a devout old priest, had again visited his people. Persistence in prayer, even for centuries or for 27 years, is no time at all in the light of eternity. God will answer those requests in His good time. So pray and pray and pray, devoutly and with confidence, for God hears those who love Him and obey Him and God is good.


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